OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
REPORT OF THE CONVENTION
WE now resume our report of the Convention of 1894; Mrs. Besant is still speaking:
“No passion, no anger should come in; but you should endeavor to do justice. Therefore while Australasia may be unanimous against Mr. Judge you ought to discount it by the fact that I have been lecturing everywhere with enormous success and that influenced many people; and therefore it may be a momentary rush and not a permanent resolution. With regard to Europe the division is very great. I do not feel as a European delegate that I have any right to vote as a delegate on this matter. I lay before you exactly the facts of the division in Europe and I tell you my own personal opinions. When I return, there will be a very strong if not an overwhelming party in favor of the policy of truth, of absolute honor and uprightness, and unless something is done, some of our best people will immediately leave the Society and public propaganda will be rendered well nigh impossible. In England, for a
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public man to be accused of dishonorable conduct and for him to refuse to resign office or to meet the charges, is a practically unheard-of procedure. I do not mean to leave the Society, and I shall not resign even though Mr. Judge refuses to resign and is not willing to give explanation. I shall go on with my work. But I am bound to tell you that on every platform on which I shall stand, I shall be met with this difficulty as to dishonor. I will bear it. I will face it, and stand by the Society despite the difficulty. My own approval goes with those who challenge the action of Mr. Judge as dishonorable, and regard the Society as most seriously compromised by having for its Vice-President such an official second in command—and first in command when our President leaves us, and another President has to take his place. Now this is the first opportunity that we have had of speaking. Therefore it is that I move the resolution, and let me say that I quite admit what Colonel Olcott said as to the possibilities of unconscious fraud under mediumistic conditions, of wrong acts being thus done. But that is not a point which an official, such as the Vice-President of a Society that stands on a moral ground before the world, should take in his defence of official position. Mediumship is an excuse for the individual against moral judgment. It is no excuse for an official who under mediumship commits acts of moral turpitude, and has thereby shown that it is his duty to at once resign his official position, inasmuch as he is not responsible for his actions, and therefore must refuse to lead the Society into a position
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so detrimental to its honor. I had better read the resolution and then you can follow the remaining argument:
“‘Seeing that a series of articles has appeared in the Westminster Gazette, London, containing charges of deception and fraud against Mr. W. Q. Judge, now Vice-President of the Theosophical Society; and
“‘Seeing that a strong body of evidence has been brought forward against the accused, and seeing that the attempt by the Society to bring the matter to an issue last July was defeated by Mr. W. Q. Judge on a purely technical objection to the jurisdiction of the committee; and
“‘Seeing that Mr. Judge, being Vice-President of the whole Society, has issued a quasi-privately-circulated attack against one section thereof, thus stirring up ill-feeling within the Society, and endeavouring to set the West against the East, contrary to the first object of the T.S. generally, and to the second object specially; and
“‘Seeing that this is the first occasion since July on which a representative body of Theosophists has been gathered together; and
“‘Seeing that immemorial custom requires of every honorable man holding a representative office in any Society to at once tender his resignation under such circumstances as are stated above,
“‘Therefore the anniversary meeting of the Theosophical Society resolves:
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“‘That the President-Founder be and is hereby requested to at once call upon Mr. W. Q. Judge, Vice-President, Theosophical Society, to resign the office of Vice-President; it being of course open to Mr. Judge if he so wishes, to submit himself for re-election, so that the Society may pass its judgment on his positions.
“‘Proposed by ANNIE BESANT.
“‘Seconded by BERTRAM KEIGHTLEY.
“The following are my reasons for submitting that resolution to you. I urge you to ask Mr. Judge to resign, because his office is an office for life, or rather during the life of the President. If it were only a yearly office, then at the end of the year you would have an opportunity of pronouncing your judgment as to whether you agree or disagree with having a man against whom certain charges had been levelled, as your officer. You have not the power of such an election, because the tenure of Vice-Presidentship is practically unique, save that of the President. The two stand apart. There is no re-election; therefore it is the more necessary that if a man is challenged, if his honor is challenged, he shall give his office back to the Society which has the right of saying either: ‘We will take you with the charges against you,’ or else: ‘We prefer to be represented before the world by someone else.’ I therefore call upon Mr. Judge to resign, and I say that he ought to restore to the Society its liberty of choice in this matter.
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“Then I call on him to resign because that course is always taken by honorable people when a challenge is made; not that the challenge is necessarily true. H.P.B., as the President told you, resigned the Corresponding Secretaryship the moment the Coulomb charge was laid against her. She was there as the Secretary. She resigned office the moment the charges were laid, in order that the Society might not be compromised by the attack made upon herself; by the vote of the Society confidence in her was declared, and then she took back the office. Is not that the precedent for Mr. Judge to follow, claiming, as he does, to be the pupil of H.P.B.,—leaving the Society to put him back in his place, as it put her back, if on a review of facts, it considers him innocent of the charges that are made against him? I say it is always done. So strongly do I feel this that, though I hold no office in the Society as a whole, though I am nothing more than the President of a local Lodge, holding my office on a yearly tenure, although I was re-elected President of the Blavatsky Lodge in September last, yet, in that these charges had been made against me in the following month, the same mail that takes my answers to the newspaper’s charges, carries my resignation of the office of President of the Blavatsky Lodge, and then I stand for re-election. If they think my answer is sufficient, they will put me back as President. But I will not hold office, even a local office for a year or the nine months remaining, unless, by their free-will they give it back to me, after my honor has been challenged
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and my good faith has been impugned; and inasmuch as I am thus challenged—and challenged also by Mr. Judge with the practice of black magic and with working under black magicians—I say to the Lodge, the only body to which I am responsible: ‘Here is the office you gave me before the charges were made; I will take it back if you give it to me, having listened to the charges made. But I will not drag you into the charges against me, I will save your honor as the Blavatsky Lodge, and cut myself away from you until you re-elect me.’
“Then there is another and a serious point. I have in my hand a document that ought not in a public meeting to be held by me. This document appears as an esoteric document written by Mr. Judge, sent to a person in India expelled from the Esoteric Section, published in the Westminster Gazette, in part, and completely, I am told, in a newspaper in Bombay; so that the whole of what is now thus published is public property. In that certain statements are made. I see their force perhaps more than you do, for the report of the American Section read to us just now, says in a veiled way what this circular openly says. I have to draw your serious attention to this as a matter affecting the future of the Society. It is stated in the document now before you that there is a plot, and in this which is circulated under the pledge of secrecy—but which is circulated in such a manner that it reaches the public press, and everything in it, slanderous or otherwise; has its full public effect on public mind—
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it is distinctly said that there is a plot amongst black magicians influencing certain Brahmans in India through race-pride and ambition, to control and manage the T.S.; that these magicians have picked me out as their agent, and have used as an intermediary my honored friend, Mr. Chakravarti, chosen, you will remember, by the Indian Section and some Brahmanical societies as their Delegate to the Parliament of Religions; that the Brahmans and their agents engineered the charges against Mr. Judge, and I practised black magic on Mr. Judge and two others.
“Mr. Judge further takes on himself to say that there are no true Initiates in India, and to praise the West as against the East, asserts that a great seat of Western Occultism is to be set up, and that this was the object of H.P.B. I am ashamed to say that the holy name of the Master is attached to this attack on the East, on the Brahman caste, and on individuals. Now my reason for bringing this forward is that it is being circulated all over India, and with what result? The Vice-President of our Society attacks the whole of the Indian Section, and all its Brahman members. Charging one of them by name, and the whole of them in this general vague way, with a desire to guide and control the Society; charging some of them with black magic; charging them with using me as an agent and a practiser of black magic, in order to bring about this plot; so that an officer of the Society secretly circulates this kind of attack against one of the Sections, setting the East against the West, stirring up disunion and
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unbrotherly feeling and strife in our midst; contradicting the very first declared Object of the Society, that we know no distinction between races, and contradicting our second Object, viz., to familiarise the West with the literature, philosophy, and religions of the East, and to demonstrate the importance of that study.
“I maintain that when an official takes up such a position, he ought at least to resign, so that the Sections may say if they desire to be thus represented in the face of the world; so that the Indian Section may have the right to say whether it endorses this slander, whether it considers that these attempts are being made under the shelter of black magicians, whether it considers, as it has the right to consider, that Mr. Chakravarti and myself are their agents; if so, we most certainly ought to be expelled. I say, when an official has to meet such charges, he is bound in the commonest honor to resign the office that protects him, and to allow the Society to re-elect him, if it endorses the statements he has made. These then are the reasons why I ask for his resignation. Let me say he misrepresents the feeling in the West. There is no such feeling against you, my Indian brothers; there is no such widespread belief in such a plot. Take America, and see how your own delegates were welcomed there. Take Europe, and see how Professor Chakravarti was welcomed; and I may tell you from my own personal knowledge that, so great has been the effect of the speeches which he made before the Chicago Convention
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that some of the noblest of our people in England look at the present time to him as one of the best representatives of Eastern thought in the movement; and they will be outraged and scandalised by such a charge, coming with all the authority of the Vice-President, against him. Therefore I ask his resignation, I do not ask his expulsion; to expel him would be to take action too hurriedly, would be to take action that, I hold, you have no right to take, until the very last effort has been made to deal with the matter in gentler and kinder fashion.
“Myself and brother Chakravarti are most hit at, I both in public and in that circular. It is he and I against whom the worst and the foulest of these accusations come. I have had no opportunity of consulting with him; he is far away; he has taken no part in the whole of this business; and therefore, I am unable to say to you what his opinion is. I am acting on my own responsibility, without his judgment, and therefore I may not commit him, not having asked his views; but I venture on my knowledge of him, to say one thing in his name, as I say it in my own, that we are the two that are most outraged by this attack—and we seek no revenge. I say to you, being thus charged, that I am not willing to expel my brother, I am not willing to forget the work he has done, and the services he has rendered. I have learnt that when you are struck at, you may not strike back in anger, nor deal with the matter with a personal bias, nor with passion, nor with wrath. I ask him to resign; and then he can
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be re-elected if the Society thinks it right. That, I hold to be the duty of any honorable man. That, therefore, I hold to be his duty. If I have any influence with you, if my words can go for anything in pleading, if my desire has any weight in any of your hearts, I ask you not to use bitter language, not to be carried away by the insult to our beloved India or by any other reason. Arjuna was told to strike; Arjuna was told to fight; but without passion, unattached, separate from the outer action, and at peace within. Let us take that as our model; let us ask our brother to resign, and let him justify himself if he can. But do not prejudge him by expulsion, which puts another stigma on him in the face of the world. Ask him to take action which every honorable man may take, and which every honorable man ought to take. Ask our President to request him to do it, so that it may preserve peace of the Society.”
I think that when the next biography of Annie Besant is compiled, this speech, so full of kindly compassion, so free from even a tinge of malice, or even of that righteous indignation which is permissible to an innocent person whose character has been traduced without cause, should be brought into notice.
In seconding the Resolution, Mr. Keightley, in some condensed remarks, told about the part which he had taken in the meeting of Judicial Committee and his concurrence in the view of the case which it had taken when deciding upon the validity of Mr. Judge’s demurrer against its jurisdiction. Referring
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to the fact of Mrs. Besant’s offered resignation of office in the Blavatsky Lodge, which had been unanimously declined, he instanced still another circumstance going to show how she had acted according to the generally accepted code of honor when she was under accusation. It was that when she and Mr. Bradlaugh, as officers of the National Secular Society, were criminally prosecuted for publishing a document popularly known as the “Knowlton Pamphlet”. The very moment that these proceedings were commenced, both Mr. Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant tendered their resignations as President and Vice-President of that society, to which offices they were subsequently triumphantly re-elected and reinstated. He said that Mr. Judge, not having taken that course, had “placed the Society to which we all belong, in a position which is absolutely untenable”. Captain Banon, not satisfied with the mild measure suggested, moved, and Miss Müller seconded, an amendment to the Resolution that the President-Founder should be requested “to take the necessary steps in accordance with precedence to expel Mr. W. Q. Judge from the Theosophical Society”. Adverting to the spirit in which Mrs. Besant had moved the Resolution, Miss Müller said:
“Mrs. Besant has brought the charges against her colleague and friend, for whom I know she feels so great a tenderness, that she cannot press home against him that justice which time demands that we shall press home. I revere and love Mrs. Besant for her tenderness and womanly affection, which still bind
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her to her old friend. So it is not for her, but it is for us to do all that is required. It is not for us to be affected by such things. We have got to do our duty before the world, however disagreeable it may seem to the Theosophical Society. This is the first opportunity we have had of expressing an opinion upon Mr. Judge. These charges which Mrs. Besant brings, she brought formulated against him and brought to him face to face during the Convention in July. I wish I had the time, that I had the opportunity and the eloquence, to tell you all exactly the spirit of characteristic forbearance and of tenderness, and purity of Love which she showed him day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and when he was trying his very utmost, with cleverness which would have frustrated her desire to get at the truth. Nobody who saw Mrs. Besant last year could but admire and love her, however he might differ from her views: I never saw such an exhibition of spiritual kindliness and purity as she showed then.”
The debate continuing with great ability, our learned colleague, Dewan Bahadur S. Subramanier (since appointed to the Bench of the Madras High Court, and knighted by the Queen), in a very temperate speech, said that a prima facie case had been made against Mr. Judge with regard to forgeries and with reference to those forgeries he was called upon to defend himself in London, but evaded the defense. He thought that he should be called upon to answer the charges and if he then refused to answer, he should be expelled
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by the General Council. The Chairman called the attention of the learned brother to the fact that, under the Constitution of the Society, we had no right to expel Mr. Judge or make him resign without giving him the chance of defence; this had already been done, and he therefore thought the amendment suggested by Mr. Subramanier was superfluous. He called upon Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, as an eminent Doctor of Laws, to give us his opinion. That gentleman endorsed unreservedly Mrs. Besant’s remarks, but seconded the amendment of the Hon. Mr. Subramanier. Mr. E. M. Sasseville, a representative of the American Section and a member of the Society, of ten years’ standing, supported Mrs. Besant’s views. Mr. Keightley deprecated the plan of Mr. Subramanier, which practically asked us to go over the same ground which we had already traversed. Mr. C. V. Naidu, a well-known Pleader of the Central Provinces, was in favor of expulsion; the Countess Wachtmeister supported Mrs. Besant, and Mr. V. C. Seshachari ranged himself by the side of Captain Banon. The Chair, finding that the debate had gone far enough and that valuable time was being wasted, gave Mrs. Besant the floor for a rejoinder. She spoke as follows:
“I need do nothing in reply except to sum up the points on which your decision has to be made, and I do ask of you to preserve a quiet dignity in so serious a matter. It is not a matter for laughter. It is not a matter for passion. It is a matter involving the future of a great spiritual movement, and you should,
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I think, show dignity and a quiet spirit. In giving your vote for it, you will have to answer in the future. The first amendment that will be put to you by the Chair is that of the Honorable S. Subramanier. If his speech had been delivered a year ago, I should have agreed, but we have done exactly what he now asks us to do again. We have asked Mr. Judge to explain. We have called him before the Judicial Committee, which is the only constitutional and legal way of trying him. We asked him there to meet the charges and he evaded the whole thing. To ask him over again is to put yourselves in the absurd position of finding yourselves next year exactly in the position where you were at the commencement. He will probably go through the same succession of excuses, prevarications, and evasions. And, remember that all the trouble of the best lawyers in your Society was taken last spring to find out the way in which he could be brought to book. There is no other way in the Constitution except the one tried and which failed; so that if you pass that amendment you will practically tell your President to do what he has already done—to waste another year in doing what the past year has been wasted in doing—and at the end you will be exactly where you are now. If Mr. Judge gives no explanation and keeps his position in the face of the world, then there comes the question, how are you going to force him to act. There is no other way. You have a Constitution and you cannot break it; you have laws and you must abide by them. There is no way of reaching Mr. Judge
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except the way you have tried. Then comes the question of expulsion; but you cannot expel him. You may start on lines which ultimately, you hope, will lead you in that direction, but nothing more. But remember that, supposing you pass the original Resolution and through the President call on him to resign, that does not deter the General Council from expelling him if he does not choose to make his explanation. I can conceive nothing more unwise, more rash than to plunge into the act of expulsion, because one gentleman says that my statement is true. That gives you no reason to refuse to hear Mr. Judge. That is not judicial, to expel him. To ask him to resign is to leave him absolutely free. To ask him to do what an honorable man would have done a year ago, is the only thing remaining to be done. I am seeking to clear the Society and not to raise party spirit. Mr. Judge says one thing: Mrs. Besant says another thing. Let them both look for one thing, that is the Society’s welfare. Let the thing be fought out; but the Society should not be compromised in the face of the world. So I ask you to say ‘No’ to both the amendments; that is, to keep your hands carefully at your sides without raising them, until the original Resolution is put before you, and then to vote upon it. Let me say one thing—that mistake may not arise; one word with reference to the telegram which the Countess Wachtmeister said was sent by Mr. Judge to Australia. It was a newspaper telegram. I have no reason to believe that Mr. Judge sent it. With this public statement I leave the question in your hands.”
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(At this stage a voice from the audience demanded an adjournment, but the motion fell through for want of a seconder.
The President then put up the first amendment, that of Captain Banon, to the meeting and it was lost.
Mr. S. Subramanier having withdrawn his amendment, the original Resolution of Mrs. Besant was put to the vote and carried, nem-con.)
How far Mr. Judge realised the expectations of those of his well-wishers at the Convention, myself included, will be seen as the narrative of his shameful case gradually unfolds itself.
The sessions of the Indian Section were held as usual, and in the course of his report, the General Secretary, Mr. Bertram Keightley, brought up the matter of the proposed transfer of the Sectional headquarters to Northern India. The scheme at that time was to locate it at Allahabad, and as Mrs. Besant and Countess Wachtmeister had made up their minds to take up their residence in India, and were ready to give pecuniary help, the project was carried through. The result of a vote by Branches was that 68 Branches voted for and 2 against the transfer. The remaining Branches did not vote at all. The Convention vote was taken at the Session of 26th December. Great dissatisfaction having arisen about the behavior of Mr. P. R. Venkatarama Iyer, a committee of inquiry was appointed which, at the meeting of the 28th, reported against his retention as Assistant Secretary of the Indian Section.
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The year 1894 was characterised by extreme activity throughout the world; there were long tours made by Mrs. Besant in India, Australia, and New Zealand; by Mr. Judge, Mr. C. F. Wright, Dr. Griffiths, and Countess Wachtmeister (who alone gave 100 lectures and visited 48 Lodges of the Society) in America; by Mr. Mead in Europe; and by Mr. B. Keightley in India; our Swedish, Spanish, and Dutch colleagues had shown ceaseless altruistic industry; the Education movement was proceeding by leaps and bounds in Ceylon; and our multitudinous publications were circulating in a great many countries. The first practical result of Mrs. Besant’s tour at the Antipodes, besides creating a deep and widespread interest in Theosophy, was the taking of the initial steps towards the formation of the Australasian Section, as above noted, and Mr. Staples, of London, the selected General Secretary, was now at Adyar as its representative. The beginning of the work at Honolulu dates from this year, as well as that in the Transvaal, which I have previously alluded to. In my Annual Address it was noticed that I had, for the trifling sum of about $100 built the mud-walled, palmyra-thatched schoolhouse which was the forerunner of the several buildings since erected for our Pariah schools. During the year, 42 new branches of the Society were started.
Besides her four lectures before the Convention, Mrs. Besant gave one at the Congress Camp on the 29th of December, on the subject of “The Place of Politics in the Life of a Nation,” and on the last day
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of the year, another at the same place on “Temperance,” each time to an audience numbering over five thousand people.